Umeshu Brew

When it comes to alcohol my first love is beer of all kinds.

After that it’s port.

Then whiskey, then probably wine.

However after that it is definitely umeshu.

Umeshu is a plum liqueur made from the Japanese plum (or ume). Unlike English plums Japanese plums are waaay too sour to just eat and are pretty small and by all accounts unpalatable. However despite this they form an important part in Japanese cooking and Japanese culture. Most notably in umeboshi (pickled plums that are a common feature of people’s lunches here) and umeshu.

Fran absolutely adores umeshu and turned me onto the delights of this drink shortly after she arrived in Japan. Typically one mixes the liqeur with some ice and water to create a cool refreshing sweet drink with hints of sourness and strong alcohol underneath. It is one of the finest things one can drink on a hot summer’s day, and trust me Japan has a surfeit of hot summer days.

Just recently it was the Japanese plum harvest here and so the supermarket has been stocked full of plums and, crucially, the equipment one needs to make ones own umeshu.

So in the interests of a cultural experience (and cheap booze) I had a go.

Here is my first attempt at making umeshu.

The method, for anyone who wants to try it, is ludicrously easy.

1. Acquire your ingredients.

You’ll need

500g of plums (ume)
90ml of shochu (distilled sake)
500g of rock sugar

I doubled up on all the ingedients as those were the quantities the supermarket had for sale (plus more booze, wahey). You can add more plums to the mix for a stronger flavour, use a stronger shochu for a more boozey umeshu (although at 35% I was plenty pleased with mine) or some honey to make a sweeter drink.

2. Prepare the plums.

This is really easy. Use a toothpick to remove the stem from the plum, give them a wash and scrape away any damage to the skin.

3. Put them in the container.

4. Add the rock sugar.

5. Add the shochu.

6. Give it a vigorous stir.

7. Leave it in a cool dry place for 6 months.

Technically it is drinkable after only 3 months but I’m planning to leave this until Christmas when I can offer it to guests. If this is sucessful then I plan to do two or more batches next year and see if I can keep one batch going until the summer.


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